Promoting your store: Reach out to the Blogosphere

Promoting your store: Reach out to the Blogosphere

At the BlogHer Business conference last week in New York, I had the pleasure of live-blogging a session entitled “Improve This Pitch”. This session is aimed squarely between the eyes at traditional media and others who are reaching out to bloggers to ask them to talk about their products online. As we learned, there are several ways of doing this right – and several ways of doing it wrong. As it turns out, reaching out to bloggers involves a lot more than getting the top 10 lists from Technorati and firing off a press release. I’ve summarized the most important things to note for you here. Have you ever thought “if only I could get some bloggers to talk about my product and link back to my site!” ? Don’t start without reading these tips!

Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void

Where do I start?

1. Blog. The best way to figure out how to interact with a blogger is to be a blogger. If you go through the process yourself of finding something you care enough to write about it every day, setting up the blog, writing the content, building the traffic, managing the comments, reading the other blogs and building the relationships with the other bloggers, then you will understand the perspective of the blogger and you will understand how you would like people to approach you about adding content to your own blog.

OK, ok, you’re an e-merchant, not a blogger. If you don’t have the time or verbal proclivity to blog, then:

2. Read the blogs that you want to target. This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t take this crucial step. Be familiar with their subject matter, understand their viewpoint, take the time to find out who they are. Bloggers reveal a great deal of information about themselves on their blogs, whether it’s about themselves and their personal lives or about their professional preferences and interests. It’s obvious to the blogger when you approach them whether you’ve taken the time to learn about them or not, and if you have, your chances of building a relationship with them are hugely increased.

3. Don’t bother with sending a blogger a press release. Bloggers who get a lot of traffic receive these in their in-boxes every day. They’re usually generic, badly addressed (such as “Dear Blogname” instead of “Dear Blog Writer”), and there’s no link between the content of the press release and the blogger’s subject matter. Bloggers will ignore it at best, openly mock it at worst (especially if it’s completely missed the target, ie. sending something about kids’ products to a non-parent, or something about an event in San Francisco to a blogger in St. John’s, Newfoundland). As Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks said, “us bloggers are all smartasses”. Bloggers tend not to ignore a bad pitch; it’s more likely they’ll tell each other – and if you’re lucky, you – about it. Instead of sending the press release in an email blast, contact the blogger directly. Tell them what you do, why you think it would jive with their blog, and contact information for you if they have any questions. Yes, this approach will take more time, but you’re also far more likely to get uptake on your request.

4. Realize that a Blogger is not a traditional advertising medium. Magazines and newspapers and other traditional forms of media are formal ways to be a conduit of information to the consumer. Blogs are a different beast: They are both the conduit and the consumer. There’s a big difference, and it doesn’t always work out the same as taking out a traditional ad would. For example, if the blogger chooses to write about you, you are not in charge of controlling the message – provided “sample text” probably would be ignored, since the blogger is a writer, after all. Think about what it is you want to achieve: if you just want eyeballs on your link and you want the message strictly controlled, would you be better off simply buying ad-space on that blog?

5. Finally, Understand what it is that you’re asking the blogger to do. In many (most?) cases, bloggers aren’t being paid for blogging. They are writing out of passion, telling the world about something they love. If you ask them to write about your product to help drive traffic to your site, you’re asking them to put your product in their living room and highlight it – for free. In other words, you’re asking them for a favour. So what can you do for them to help even the score? Discount coupons? Free samples? Backlinks? Access to you or someone you’re connected to who can give the blogger an exclusive interview or open a door somewhere? See what you can do for the blogger, as much as you see what the blogger can do for you (with apologies to JFK!)

If you’re interested in reading more about this or just finding out more about the smart ladies who said all this stuff, you can visit the blogs of the panelists – Susan Getgood, Maria Niles Mir Kamin and Liz Gumbinner.